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Cubs' awards trifecta shows World Series reachable

Maddon (Manager), Bryant (Rookie), Arrieta (Cy Young) earn BBWAA nods

In three straight days this week, the Cubs captured the 2015 Baseball Writers' Association of America National League Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year and Cy Young Awards.

Did that really happen? Yep.

In three straight days this week, the Cubs captured the 2015 Baseball Writers' Association of America National League Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year and Cy Young Awards.

Did that really happen? Yep.

Just like that, these historically troubled Cubbies are prowling around rare territory for them, in baseball's top tier, which means they have a bulls-eye on their back.

But folks aren't fretting around Wrigleyville; the team is up for the challenge. Does that mean the Cubs will win the World Series championship? Hey, I'm not thinking that far ahead. All I know is, they have Joe Maddon, a 61-year-old dude who does kooky things to motivate his players when he isn't driving around in his 1976 Dodge van. He doesn't mind pressure. In fact, he invites it without a hint of arrogance.

Soon after Maddon's hire before this season, he declared the Cubs would make the playoffs. This was the same franchise that just finished fifth in the NL Central for five consecutive years.

The Cubs made the playoffs. Once there, they survived the teams with baseball's second-best and best records (the Pirates and the Cardinals, respectively) during the early rounds to reach the NL Championship Series. The Cubs' 97 victories ranked them third in the Majors in victories, behind their NL Central counterparts.

Video: Cubs' Maddon wins 2015 NL Manager of the Year

Most strikingly, the Cubs achieved all of this out of nowhere, with a core of talented youth led by Maddon, who just earned his third Manager of the Year Award after earning the others with the Rays.

Maddon still is talking big, by the way.

"The spotlight is shining from Wrigley Field," he told reporters this week during a conference call. "You just like to believe that's going to attract other people who want to be there. Obviously a huge attraction is the fact we have not won a World Series in more than 100 years."

That's an attraction? Well, Maddon says so. Since he has conquered the impossible with regularity, who's to argue? Certainly not those part of a Cubs franchise that went from operating as an afterthought for fans not into ivy-covered walls to having players grab the Triple Crown through the opening round of the BBWAA postseason awards.

About that Triple Crown: Before the BBWAA announced its Most Valuable Player honors this week, it named the NL and AL award winners for Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year and the Cy Young.

In the NL: Cubs, Cubs and Cubs.

Video: Castrovince on Bryant winning NL Rookie of the Year

We've already discussed Maddon. The day before his award, there was Kris Bryant taking Rookie of the Year honors Monday. Then came Wednesday, when Jake Arrieta grabbed the Cy Young Award.

Thus the rising hoopla around the Cubs. Bryant was a unanimous Rookie of the Year pick, and he's only 23, which means in the minds of many, he has the potential to remain potent at the plate for nearly two more decades. Cubs enthusiasts say to themselves: If he can hit. 275 with 26 home runs, 31 doubles and 99 RBIs after not joining the team until mid-April, he should do even better as the Cubs' starting third baseman starting on Opening Day.

As for Arrieta, he finished 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA. That's dandy enough, but there was also his second half for the ages. After the All-Star break, he went 12-1 with an unprecedented 0.75 ERA in 15 starts with two shutouts, including a no-hitter. Cubs enthusiasts say to themselves, if Arrieta can do that at 29, just imagine what he'll do next season with more help in the Cubs' rotation.

Actually, such expectations are warranted for both players. Bryant only will improve, especially since he sits in the middle of a powerhouse batting order with sluggers Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber. There's no way Arrieta matches those second-half numbers again, because nobody will. That doesn't mean he won't remain stifling, since he has improved significantly during each of his three years after the Orioles dealt him to the Cubs.

Video: Arrieta Wins the NL Cy Young

You also know the Cubs will get help in their starting rotation to join Arrieta and Jon Lester, their biggest pickup last winter. Left-hander David Price is among the key pitchers in this free-agent market, and he fits well with the Cubs for a couple of reasons: He has a Cy Young Award to match that of Arrieta, and he won that honor with a Rays club managed by Maddon.

Everything comes back to Maddon, who remains obsessed with generating another extended stay in the postseason after not winning it all with the Rays in 2008 after they reached the World Series. Even so, the Cubs haven't moved that far into October or beyond since they won the 1945 pennant, and their last World Series championship was in 1908.

Which is why Maddon keeps seeking to make that "100 years" thing a positive instead of a negative.

"There is a lot of competitive nature and components to a lot of Major League players who would like to be a member of that first group who did that," said Maddon, whose "that" refers to the Cubs winning a World Series for the first time since the turn of the 20th century. "It's going to be a pretty good player who wants that challenge."

Suddenly, it's a reachable challenge.

Terence Moore is a columnist for

Chicago Cubs